Sean Tarry’s Royal Academy colt Verrochio stepped into the Emperors Palace Ready-To-Run Cup limelight with a scintillating win at Turffontein on 20 October. It is difficult to recall when last a race has generated as much excitement and discussion as this restricted feature and it is a real tribute to the efforts of all involved.
It just goes to show again. Great ideas and good concepts are half the marketing battle won. The Ready-To-Run Cup to be run at Turffontein on 5 November is on everybody’s lips and the race selection panel has a thankless task facing it in determining the final field. With the NHRA, Phumelela and Gold Circle all represented though, there should be little provincial bias or hometown decisions and many of the candidates have in any event already named themselves.
And fireworks we can expect as it is probably also no coincidence that this race will be run on the day in November when we used to set off fireworks to celebrate the arrest of Guy Fawkes – who was caught guarding a cache of explosives under the House Of Lords some three centuries ago.
Did we see the Cup winner today? One doesn’t want to get too excited about a maiden win but Sean Tarry’s colt was breathtaking over the mile trip. And he beat a De Kock colt who must be showing something at home if the generous money at both his career starts is anything to go by. Borodino’s rider Anthony Delpech admitted from the second box afterwards that he had hit the front a little early after Hurricane Jo had folded upfront, and that he was disappointed that the grey colt had not won. How good is he really though? His sire Daylami has left our shores and didn’t exactly set the world alight in his short time with us. Time will tell, but Verrochio won’t be hanging around and will do his own talking it seems.
He is a smashing chestnut who looks like he needs a galloping track to show his mettle. So his performance on the tightish inner track was exemplary as he showed maturity and heart as he came to fetch the long-striding leader. This was a lifting of his game in dazzling style after that rather inauspicious debut at The Vaal over 1200m, when slow away and coughing. But pack the excuses away for now – they really are not required.
Jockey Robbie Fradd said afterwards that Verrochio’s ‘penny hasn’t dropped yet’. He suggested menacingly that when the coin does drop, ‘we will see a real racehorse.’ That is fighting talk from a man who has ridden good horses all over the globe. Adding to the moment was the presence on course of the winning connections – the Papageorgious who hail from the Congo and who aren’t going home immediately. Nothing to do with a certain feature race in two weeks time!
Verrochio was at a rather humble 69th position on the 84 strong Ready-To-Run log published prior to his win today. Positions are determined by merit rating alone but the final field is by invitation and at the discretion of the panel. He surely looks a shoe-in to make the final starting line-up at this point in time.
Mike De Kock sent out six fancied runners on the afternoon with only two arriving, but Anthony Delpech and the newly Joburg-domiciled Robbie Fradd rode a hat-trick each to take the riding accolades. De Kock’s two winners were impressive indeed and Philip Kahan and the Alchemy Stud would have been celebrating with him after the second race. Their Danehill stallion Toreador dominated this 1450m Maiden Plate with two of his daughters locked together in a race for the line and miles ahead of their nine opponents. De Kock’s Going On Thirty made all the running to beat Robbie Sage’s Adella going away in the end, and she received a thumbs up from her winning rider as a filly with a bright future. She had been supported on debut but her eloquent part-owner Greg Blank confirmed it wasn’t ‘our money’ that day!
De Kock’s next winner was the Group-placed Right Approach gelding Right Beauty, who finished with a terrific burst to catch the older and very able Echohawk, who looked a winner 200m out in the fifth race, a MR88 Handicap over 1600m. Delpech said that his mount had been on the wrong foot all the way around the turn and he had not felt too positive at that point. But when asked for an effort , the dashing grey took off and showed a real turn of foot and a stamp of class. He should be a better horse around 2000m- so is one to watch going into the features.
It is not often that one hears a winning trainer whinging about the pace but St John Gray took a back-handed swipe at the jockeys in the MR66 Handicap(F&M) run over 2600m. St John’s Sarge filly Turkish Delight had just followed up on her maiden win on the sand a month ago when sweeping ahead in the final stages to withstand the challenge of the unfancied Reine De Victoire in the third leg of the jackpot. Gray called the race ‘a joke’ and said this had played into his hands and that the result would have been very different with Mike De Kock’s Rock Of Gibraltar filly Ebtehaaj finishing a lot closer in different circumstances. Very sporting comments!